For the past couple of seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers’ ace up their sleeve has been downsizing with Anthony Davis at center.
Spacing and versatility are the name of the game in today’s NBA and Davis is uniquely qualified to both defend the rim and out on the perimeter. That kind of ability is incredibly rare for a big man and allows head coach Frank Vogel the opportunity to tailor his lineups depending on who they are playing.
So when the Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook, the immediate thought was that Davis would be spending more time at center in order to open up the floor. The star big man himself is expecting to start at the five during the 2021-22 season, but Vogel seems to still have some reservations as he noted some cons of having him there.
“Defensive size for one,” Vogel explained. “In particular with Trevor [Ariza] not being in this early part of training camp and Melo being more of a hybrid four, we’re pretty small on the glass. We’re pretty small on the rim protection, so those are a couple negatives.
“And I think offensive rebounding support. Obviously, Anthony is getting a lot of the field-goal attempts, we’ve got to get perimeter passing. We’re going to play second-shot offense. We don’t want to just get five guys back every time and get one-shot offense every time down. I think those are the two biggest negatives.”
Vogel is a traditionalist in the sense that he still prefers to have a traditional rim-protecting big next to Davis, and while it can work on certain nights in the playoffs, it has been proven that Davis in the middle is by far and away their best option. To be fair, though, the concerns he outlined are valid as the Lakers did lose some size along the perimeter and the roster as a whole is smaller.
Despite Vogel’s comments, it is still widely expected that Davis will see an increase in minutes at center, especially if he, LeBron James and Westbrook spend extensive time together.
Ariza to miss at least eight weeks
The Lakers’ projected starting lineup with Davis at center included Trevor Ariza at power forward, although they no longer have that option to start the season as it was announced he underwent surgery on his injured ankle and will be evaluated in eight weeks.
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